The Luminaries puts Hokitika in the spotlight

By Brendon McMahons of the Hokitika Guardian -
Eleanor Catton has helped bring the history of Hokitika into the spotlight with her novel, The Luminaries. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Eleanor Catton has helped bring the history of Hokitika into the spotlight with her novel, The Luminaries. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Visitors to Hokitika are starting to look for something tangible from the acclaimed Booker Prize-winning novel The Luminaries.

Eleanor Catton's 832-page novel is based entirely in 1866 Hokitika, and now has visitors wanting location history and background to particular references in the book.

Both the Hokitika Museum and i-Site say visitor curiosity has steadily swelled. Museum director Julia Bradshaw said that increasingly visitors to the museum had read the book and were looking for a snapshot of life in early Hokitika.

"They want to find out more about Hokitika and what it was like in 1866," Ms Bradshaw said. "People are coming here hungry for information and wanting to find out more."

Particular locations of interest for Luminaries readers include the site of the former courthouse in Sewell St, Revell St, the West Coast Times office, Gibson Quay, Wharf St and the beach.

The museum plans to put together information targeted at Luminaries visitors, particularly photographs offering a real view of the period.

"We're hoping to give them more, but it will be in a cost-effective way," Ms Bradshaw said.

Souvenirs were a "natural progression" but the museum did not have any plans in that direction.

Hokitika i-Site officer Kirsty Russell said people were looking specifically for a tour with a focus on The Luminaries.

Inquiries came from a mix of New Zealand and overseas tourists, mainly in the middle age bracket, all looking for something tangible.

Luminaries fans were being directed toward the existing Living History walking tours, led by David Verrall.

Many visitors had told staff they intended to return to Hokitika in March for Catton's scheduled visit and public forum at the Regent Theatre.

Mr Verrall said The Luminaries had definitely given impetus to his existing tours, which had been re-jigged to expand on the life and times of Hokitika in The Luminaries period.

"It sort of melded into one so the book is now the basis of the tour," Mr Verrall said.

"As soon as the book won the prize ... boom."

- The Hokitika Guardian

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